In the grand scheme of things, the rate at which a mechanical watch ticks probably doesn’t weigh too much on the mind of watch buyers, compared to more pertinent aspects, like complications, case size and dial design. But there are benefits to having a “high-beat” watch with a fast-ticking movement — most notably higher precision (especially in chronographs) where the watch can read out in smaller fractions of a second. Less technically, higher-beat watches have a smoother second hand. That’s sweet, sweet eye candy for watch obsessives.
Many high-end watches today already beat at a relatively quick frequency of 28,800 beats per hour (about 8 ticks a second), while other common frequencies in more affordable watches are 21,600 bph (six beats per second) and 18,000 bph (five beats per second). But it takes 36,000 bph (10 beats per second) to have the “smooth action” of a high-beat watch. Because watches running at this frequency are most subject to strain on their internal workings, they require more durable parts and better lubricants to deal with the added friction.
As such, high-beat movements are not very common these days. New ones today cost well into four- and five-figure territory; there was much more experimentation with 36,000 bph watches in the ‘60s and ‘70s, so many vintage examples can be found below $1,000. In either case, you get a unique piece, one with irrefutably mesmerizing seconds hand and rarity to boot. If that sounds appealing to you, look for one of these seven vintage and new high-beat watches.
Vintage High-Beat Watches
Zodiac SST 3600
Zodiac made a number of watches using its 36,000 bph movement in the 1970s in a variety of case designs both restrained and avant-garde.
Seiko Lord Marvel
Before Seiko started making “Hi-Beat” watches under the Grand Seiko moniker, its very first 36,000 bph watch was the hand-wound Lord Marvel from the 1960s. And it still offers some strong value.
Using Longines’s Cal 431, the Ultra-Chron was claimed by the manufacturer to be the most accurate watch in the world at the time.
New High-Beat Watches
Grand Seiko Heritage SLGH005
Seiko’s modern-day offering continues the brand’s long history of using 36,000 movements in its high-end timepieces, and this is one of the most stunning examples.
Zenith Chronomaster Revival El Primero A385
Released in 1969, the El Primero is to this day one of the most advanced chronographs in the world, and we love the Chronomaster Revival series based on some of the earliest examples.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Chronograph Flyback
A modern interpretation of Blancpain’s iconic diver featuring the company’s impressive F385 high-beat chronograph movement. Coming in green ceramic is icing on the cake.
Chopard L.U.C 8HF Power Control
High-beat watches usually tick at 5Hz (36,000 bph or 10 ticks a second), but this unusual and technical watch from Chopard in its L.U.C line doubles those numbers and yet maintains a 60-hour power reserve.